Charles A Proctor’s Death and the Aftermath

Charles A and Jesusita Salazar Proctor

A few mysteries surround Charles A Proctor’s untimely death. How did he really die? What were his troubles? Can we ever prove he was murdered? And why did the newspapers have several different stories? We know a few things. He died May 15, 1913 at his Sopori Ranch homestead and the family dynamic was never the same.

Orphaned Jesus was adopted by Jose and Teresa Salazar and lived at the La Tesota ranch. In the 1870s/1880s Charles would stay at La Tesota while rounding up cattle. Charles married Jesus Salazar on November 5, 1888 at St. Augustine’s Cathedral in Tucson AZ. Charles was 31 and Jesus was 15(?) when they were married. They had six children and shared time between Sopori, La Tesota and Box Canyon ranches by 1913.

Sopori Neighbors

Tomas and Juan Elias were from a Spanish pioneering family dating back to the 1700’s. Tomas Elias Sr. was selling off land and Charles bought part of the Sopori ranch around 1898(?). 1910 Charles A /Frank L paid Juan Elias two $500 payments for land plus an interest agreement. At one time it was a large land grant but it has been divided into smaller ranches over the years. Tomas Elias Sr. and one of sons, Tomas Elias Jr. lived and worked on the Sopori property just West of Charles and Jesus.

Charles had put a gate and lock around a water source after buying the ranch land. Both Tomas Sr and Jr were not happy and left a threatening note. Elias Jr even confronted and wanted to kill Charles at that time but Jesus stopped Elias Jr.

Jesus and Tomas Elias Jr., were having an affair. Charles became aware of the situation and with the relationship strained, Jesus and Charles would argue. A couple weeks before Charles died, Jesus overdosed on laudanum and was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital by Charles. She recovered and returned to the ranch. Still things were not right; Charles told the boys “If you ever find me dead, go after Tomas (Jr.).” Charles was paranoid, his wife tried to commit suicide, and her lover had threatened him. He created a Last Will and Testament less than six months prior to his death.

Proctor Sopori Ranch 2017So the story goes… after an argument with Jesus, Charles goes out for a late night walk to clear his mind. He did not return and was found at 5 A.M. 50 yards from the house. Early on the paper says he committed suicide but there were no bullet holes or marks of violence.  It was a news frenzy and they reported a few falsehoods. A coroner’s jury decided that he had come to his death from unknown causes. 

Curious tales from family and newspapers say Charles’ face was washed (clean of dirt from a fall) and he had blood on his mouth. It’s also suspect that Charles would be carrying around a revolver that had cobwebs in it. He had one that was used on the ranch on occasion. (Tucson Citizen 05/17/1913)  The family theory is Tomas and Jesus smothered or poisoned him and carried him out by the road. We have no proof.

Since the Proctor “boys” were convinced that Tomas Jr. and Jesus were responsible for their fathers death, they despised him. Day to day life was hostile. Their uncle Frank L told them to not to act on anger. But Jesus, now a widow with a lot of land had let Tomas Jr. take over most of the ranch duties. Things were tense.  Henry P had caught his mother Jesus secretly exchanging letters to Tomas Jr and confronted her. The youngest son, Frank, age 15 or 16, was beaten after he tried to recover a horse from Tomas Jr.

One Step Over the Line

Two years after Charles death, September 11, 1915 Jesus Proctor and Tomas Elias Jr. were married in Nogales, AZ and returned to the Elias ranch (just West of the Proctor’s). On the morning of September 13, Tomas Jr. went over to the Proctor ranch house for horseshoes and was sitting in the kitchen. Frank testified later at the trial, “Went in through kitchen. Inside I walked ahead, saw Tomas Elias there, near a table, in a sitting position. Elias made as if to grab me, and made as if to get his gun; I drew my gun as quick as I could, fired several times and turned and ran.” George went to Amadoville, called the Sheriff and turned himself in.

Jesusita ProctorJesus hired an attorney to fight against her two sons and ceased contact with sons. She kept the sisters away from their older brothers, even the ones not involved. Frank L Proctor, who was living in California at the time, came to town and hired lawyers for George and Frank. The law firm of Duffy and Purdom, assisted by Tom Richey, began gathering evidence to present a self defense case. People testified that Tomas Elias Jr. was known to be aggressive and violent towards the boys. The jury was complied of people who knew the Proctor boys, it was a small community. On November 6, 1915, George and Frank Proctor were declared not guilty due to self defense and set free.

Jesus remained distant from the boys and influenced her two young daughters to do the same. She lived with her daughter, Mary, until her death in 1958. The divide had lasted generations. Recently, the descendants of the daughters and sons have gathered for small family get-togethers. We all have tid-bits that were handed down. What really happened? Only a couple people know and they are long gone.